Parent Express, April 2012: Second Nature

Glorious Mud

April can be a very rainy month, so get out your raincoats and galoshes. It’s time to sing and dance in the rain celebrating spring. All the rain creates puddles to jump in and glorious mud to play with. Earth day is on April 22nd, and what better way to celebrate Earth day than to play in the mud.

The days of rain need not bring you down. There’s no such thing as bad weather, you just need to be prepared to get muddy and wet. If you’re journeying further from home, bring a towel and a change of clothes to get warm and dry. If you’re exploring near home, head in for a warm bath when muddied out.

Water and mud are a sure joy for many children, inviting their innate sense of curiosity. Is there a spot in your yard or nearby park that turns into a mud puddle with the rain? Embrace it! Bring a friend, a bucket, a shovel, a toy, and whatever else you can imagine as a prop for a muddy escapade.

Model excitement and curiosity with all your senses: What colors do you see? What textures do you feel? What does it sound like rubbing mud between your fingers or dropping mud into the puddle? What does the earth smell like when it rains?

Make mud pies and mud paintings. Dig a network of streams between the puddles. Build bridges over streams. Build dams to create new puddles. Make mud huts, castles, and other sculptures. What natural materials around you can add to your play world and mud creations? Pebbles to decorate a mud pie, twigs to strengthen mud houses, the possibilities are plentiful.

Follow the lead of your little ones and they’ll take you on an adventure as they explore, discover, experiment, imagine, create, engage their senses, shape their environment, solve problems, and connect with nature.

While you’re out exploring the world of mud keep an eye out for other creatures also visiting mud puddles. Maybe there are tracks of an animal that walked through the muddy spot, or maybe you’ll see wasps or birds collecting mud.

The female mud daubers wasps collect balls of mud to build their nests in crevices, such as behind bark or under eaves of buildings. They use their mouthparts, called mandibles, to shape the mud into cells. Within each cell they place a paralyzed spider, lay an egg, and seal the cell. The larvae grow in the nest feeding on the spider until the adult wasp chews its way out of the cell, leaving a circular exit hole.

The mud dauber wasps may look scary, but they are rarely aggressive, usually only stinging if touched. Their identifying feature is a long and narrow waist between their chest and abdomen. There are three types of mud daubers. The organ pipe dauber is black and builds long tubular nests, like organ pipes. The black and yellow dauber builds globular nests, and the blue dauber uses nests made by the black and yellow dauber.

Barn swallows also collect mud to build their nests. Pairs will choose their location, often in the eaves and rafters of barns and sheds or under bridges. They collect mud in their bills and start their nest by building a shelf to sit on, and then form the walls. They then collect grass and feathers to line their nest with so it’s soft and warm.

Then there are our amphibian friends who love the rain and puddles of spring. If there’s a large long lasting puddle, vernal pool or pond near you, go investigate for signs of spring. If you quietly approach the pool, you’ll likely hear a chorus of wood frogs and spring peepers. With regular visits you’ll be able to observe the incredible lifecycle of the frogs, and maybe even salamanders.

This April, in honor of our Earth and our children, let’s get outside, feel the rain on our faces, feel the mud between our fingers and toes, and open our hearts to our muddy friends around us.

Events at BEEC: For more information visit www.beec.org or call 802 257 5785

Saturday April 14, 9 - 11 am

Exploring Nature with Young Children: Signs of Spring 

Professional development opportunity for early childhood educators. To register contact Nancy Witherall nancy@windhamchildcare.org

Saturday April 22, Earth Day, 1 - 4 pm

Bark: Get to Know Your Trees

Join naturalist Michael Wojtech for an exploration of bark, the tree characteristic that is always visible, in every season. 

April 23 to 26, 9am -3pm

Springtime Explorers Vacation Camp for Grades 1-4

Monday: Spring Survival Quest

Tuesday: Walking with the Wild Ones

Wednesday: Vernal Pool Party

Thursday: Fairies and Gnomes of the Forest

Mud, mud, glorious mud,

nothing quite like it

for cooling the blood,

so follow me follow,

down to the hollow,

and there let us wallow

in glorious mud.                Hippopotamus song, Flanders and Swann